In a recent update from Daily Harvest, CEO Rachel Drori says that the company has identified tara flour as the cause of the more than 470 illnesses reported to the company.

Tara flour comes from the seeds of tara trees which are native to Peru. Tara flour is one of more than a dozen ingredients listed in Daily Harvest’s recalled French Lentil + Leek Crumbles.

As of July 14 the Food and Drug Administration is reporting 277 reports from people who ate the frozen crumbles. The agency continues to advise people to not eat the product and to check their freezers for it. As of June 30, 133 people had reported illnesses to the FDA.

“Our extensive investigation has involved many experts analyzing data from all sources. We have only used this ingredient in French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and we are no longer sourcing from this producer who does not provide any ingredients for our 140+ other items,” Drori said. “This was the first and only time we’ve used tara flour, which has been available and used in the North American market as a plant-based source of protein prior to our use. Our investigation team will continue working with the FDA, the tara flour producer and others to help determine what specifically made people sick.”

Daily Harvest still believes that the issue is limited to the French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. “As we’ve continued our testing sequencing over the past four weeks and reviewed consumer reports and medical records — including analysis by medical toxicologists and food safety experts –, the data has repeatedly indicated that the issue is isolated to French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. Drori said.

The product was recalled on June 17. From April 28 to June 17, 2022, 28,000 units of the recalled product were distributed to consumers in the continental United States through online sales and direct delivery, as well as through retail sales at the Daily Harvest store in Chicago, IL, and a “pop-up” store in Los Angeles, CA. Samples were also provided to a small number of consumers.

The FDA is waiting to release more information

In a statement from the FDA to the press, the FDA said it is not yet willing to share information on the investigation. “Sharing preliminary information on the investigation may mislead consumers in believing that a specific ingredient was the cause of an illness or outbreak when in fact it was later ruled out of being linked to an adverse event.”

According to the statement, the FDA is still collecting data in addition to samples and conducting sample analysis on multiple ingredients. This includes extensive testing for numerous possible adulterants, including microbial and chemical contaminants. Sample analysis takes time, and there are no guarantees the information available to the agency will demonstrate a definitive link between illnesses and foods.

More about the outbreak

The most recent patient developed symptoms on July 9. All ill people report similar symptoms of gastrointestinal illness and abnormal liver function and more than two dozen have had to have their gallbladders removed. Many of the sick people have gone into liver failure but have recovered to some degree. At least one patient is waiting for a liver transplant.

The sick people live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Of the 277 patients who have reported illnesses to the FDA, 96 have required hospitalization.

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler is representing more than 200 of the ill people and is advising sick people to retain samples of the product, especially unopened bags, for testing.

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